Toronto pantry faces closure

TORONTO – The His Hands Extended food pantry is in serious danger of closing by the end of this month due to a lack of operating funds, officials said.

The pantry, at 217 N. Fourth St., which has been operating in the Gem City for more than 20 years, may close its doors due to a downturn in private donations, according to the Rev. Lloyd Hill, pastor of the Abundant Life First Assembly of God Church, which is the administrator for the pantry.

“We’ve lost some income since (former pantry director) Tom Devlin left and moved closer to be with his family,” said Hill, adding private donations have since dried up. “People really liked and trusted Tom. I think that’s had an impact on the decline in personal gifts.”

Hill also blamed the general economic climate in the Ohio Valley, adding that “it might look good on paper, but not in reality.

“Our operating budget has been $1,800 to $2,500 per month in the past,” Hill continued. “That’s enough to give people the food they really need. We supply about 14 to 18 meals per family (that uses the food pantry services) here in Toronto. We give away a lot of food.”

The pantry also distributes meat and pastries from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays, said Hill.

He noted there are plenty of volunteers willing to help, and the pantry receives donations of meats and pastries from the Toronto Riesbeck’s grocery store, which he was said was “instrumental” in keeping the pantry stocked. The pantry also receives monetary assistance from the Toronto Service Committee, the city’s recycling program and other city churches. The pantry also has to pay rent for its space on Fourth Street.

“But we need to give away more than just pastries and meat,” said Hill, adding the pantry has to pay for canned and packaged goods purchased from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank in Grove City.

“The prices (for food) have been going up,” said Hill. “We currently have no funds to purchase more food for this month. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We need regular donations to keep moving forward.”

Hill also had bad news about the Toronto Youth Center, which has been operating next to the pantry for the past two years.

“The youth center is closing this month, also,” Hill said, adding a lack of steady funding is forcing the closure.

“July 20 is the next scheduled food distribution,” Hill continued, adding that in the previous two months the pantry has given food to more than 150 families. “If there aren’t funds by then we’ll have to close the building and discontinue the pantry. This is the first time the food pantry has been in this situation.”

Hill said those interested in donating can make checks payable to the His Hands Extended food pantry, 1009 N. Fourth St., Toronto, OH 43964. Donations may be delivered in person by entering the back entrance of the pantry from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays. For information, call Hill, at (417) 380-1550.